TPG Week 202: Wasted Effort (It’s Not Pretty–You Were Warned)

| November 7, 2014


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Andrew Burgess. We also have Liam Hayes in blue, and I’m the frustrated guy in red. You’ll see why as we see Andrew write about

Edgewood Goes Mad Scientist

First, a little behind the scenes. You all know I generally don’t do this, because it isn’t necessary. I have the rules for submitting set up, and there are obvious loopholes there to be taken advantage of by those with just an inkling of imagination.

Andrew wrote to me, asking if his format was going to be a problem, since it was closer to a film script than a comic script. He read a book that said that there’s no exact format for scripting. I said in no uncertain terms that I’m not dogmatic about format. Things have to be gotten across to the writer, but that he should also do his research because I’m not afraid to skewer a writer. I also told him that I wasn’t going to look at his format first.

That’s all setup for the travesty you see before you. There’s no Flawless Victory for format. More like Epic Fail.

Also, this came in at a font size of 11. I raised it to 12 for all of you. You can thank me later.

And now, let’s get to it.

SO-CAL SURVIVORS (The script is called edgewood goes mad scientist , but the title within is SO-CAL SURVIVORS . I’m confused already. That’s not a good start.)

(I need to make a point of your format. I’m sure Steven’s already said something about it, or is going to, but I’d like to have my say. I know there are no strict rules when it comes to comic scripting. But the end goal remains the same; you need to effectively communicate with your artist. This is not effective. It’s like the Marvel Method through the medium of screenplay. You aren’t even numbering your pages. You’re going to leave how many pages your comic book is up to the artist? That’s giving up a silly amount of control. It’s your story. Why are you sacrificing the telling of it?)

(From a pacing perspective, I can see that. However, this is taking the worst part of the Marvel Method and foisting it upon a screenplay format, not understanding the strengths and weaknesses in either. This is why your format is a failure. More than likely the story, too, by extension.)


A fucking mess of gadgetry, overflowing work bench, concert posters, clothes, etc. (Where is this stuff? You’ve just listed objects without placing them into the scene. (The bedroom. Says so, right next to INT . What the bedroom looks like? That’s another matter.) This is a list. You also need to describe the actual room more. Is it a normal modern day bedroom? The cabin of a spaceship? An external establishing shot would help with this.)

Edgewood sits alone on her bed facing the corner of the room fiddling with something, we can’t see what. (What’s Edgewood wearing?)

(What the light source for this panel?)

Holy shit.

She turns around and we see that she’s wearing goggles (We’d have seen the strap of the goggles in the previous panel, surely?) with eye rims like coke cans and glowing green glass. She JUMPS up on the bed. (Moving panel. I think. I’m not sure. Is this one panel? I don’t know. Steven, help.)(Remember the first part of the first line? A fucking mess. Just stop right there, and everything is explained. This is a fucking mess. Basically, Andrew, every time you interrupt the script with dialogue, you’ve created a panel. This would be panel 2 of P1, because she’s now doing a separate action. And yes, it’s a moving panel, because she did one action and then did another in a single panel.

Basically, you’re damned lazy, and you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to sneak this through somewhere and think it was fine. I don’t care what book you read, I don’t care what it said, and I don’t care who wrote it: just because there’s no single right way to write a script doesn’t mean there’s no wrong way to do it, either. The only way this could be more wrong is if you have spelling and punctuation errors, too.

Why do I say you’re lazy? Because you didn’t want to write Page 1, panel 1 , and then describe single actions. You didn’t want to do the work, even though you basically did.

No, I have no respect for this effort.

(What was she fiddling with? What happened to it?)

(Underline if you want emphasis. Capitalization will get lost. Like I’ve lost count of how many times this has been said in TPG.)

She jumps around with maniacal glee. (What? Where? Why? Who? Actually I know who, just not the rest.)(Moving panel.)

(Punctuation. Also, you want this whole thing emphasized? That’s going to look silly. And annoying.)(I could have sworn I had just said something about punctuation. Now, it’s just spelling that’s missing.)

A large BUMP sound comes from the wall across from Edgewood. Moments later, Fred busts in, clad in heart boxers. (I have no words. How can this be shown in one panel? This is literally prose.)(‘SPLODE! Felix, tell us why, and how to fix it.)


whasupwhasgoinon (Unless you character has a speech impediment, this isn’t going to fly. Punctuation. Grammar. Spelling.)

(More emphasis? The character is basically shouting.)

Beat. (Huh? What does that mean? This makes me think everything beforewas one panel, which makes my mind hurt. Anyway, this is lazy.)(Okay. First, let’s just make it official: this is crap. We all good with that? Doesn’t matter. It’s officially crap. And my head just ‘sploded again. This time, however, I’m going to say exactly why.

(What is the artist supposed to draw. How does this single word convey anything useful to the artist? If it’s full script, you’d have to write a panel description. Plot-first? What’s the artist supposed to draw? Is it a note for yourself? Liam is wrong. This isn’t lazy. This is as right as a unicorn doing a sixty-nine with a manticora over the grave of Mother Teresa.)

Fred covers his crotch with his hands, blushing.

Edgewood giggles. (But makes no sound?)

Page one down. I think. I don’t know what to say about this script. Content-wise, it’s set the tone of comedy, but it isn’t really funny, and I’m not really drawn into the story as of yet.

Liam has done me the favor of putting in his own page breaks. I’m very thankful of that. I will remove a whole bottle of his whiskey debt because of it.

So, with P1 down, let’s see what we have:

We have a format that is totally fucked up, because the writer is too damned lazy to actually want to do their job. I’m going to try not to harp on it too much, if I can. Two head ‘splosions on the first page doesn’t bode well, though.

Know what else we know? We know this this is going to be rife with moving panels. Again, due to laziness. I’ll try not to harp too much on that, either. We’ll see what happens.

We also have problems with the dialogue. We have the dialogue from Edgewood, who’s got nothing but caps going on.

There are a couple of lines of thought when it comes to all caps in dialogue. The first line that some pros espouse is that it lets them get a good idea of how much space the dialogue will take up in a panel, since 98% of the time the letterer is going to use a font that’s all caps, anyway.

The other line of thought is what a lot of newbie writers do: they use the caps to stress a single word or sentence.

I’m not a fan of the latter. It’s too easy for that single word to get missed when it comes time for lettering. I’d much rather see that word underlined, instead. It’s harder to miss. (Yes, this is a somewhat old-school convention, but it still works.)

As for the story being told? I’m not a fan yet. Like Liam said, it seems to skew toward comedy, but I’m not even smiling yet, let alone even partially amused. Don’t get me wrong, I’m easily amused, but this isn’t doing it yet. Nothing amusing has happened, and there isn’t enough dialogue to pull me in and keep me reading.

Liam put the page turn at a natural point. It works there. The page isn’t too crowded, but there isn’t enough dialogue to really carry the reader through. Would the better place have been at I’ve invented x-ray vision ? Not necessarily, methinks, because the reaction to the announcement would have come on the next page, with the page turn acting as a beat/pause until we get there. I think it’s better where Liam put it.


EPISODE TITLE CARD: (This goes where?)(Just another example of being damned lazy.)


INT – FRED AND EDGEWOOD’S LIVING ROOM – EVENING (This is what I hate about screenwriting in comics. There’s no description here. You’ve given us a living room, but that can mean anything. Absolutely anything.)

Johnny, Fred and Vaas sit around their dining room (So we’ve changed rooms?) table (A dining room table is not what I envision when thinking about a living room. See how the lack of description causes problems?). Indiscriminate loud noises coming from Edgewood’s room. (Nope. It’s your job to put these sounds into the script.)(And how is the reader supposed to know that these sounds are coming from off-screen?)

(What are these characters doing and/or expressing?)

So how longs it been now ? (There’s a space between the text and your question mark.)(How can someone who calls themselves a writer get ending punctuation wrong? And people wonder why I’m driven to drink!)

Five days.


How much longer you think she’ll be in
there ? (Another space. Is the program you use doing this for you? I wouldn’t have thought so.)

Fred shrugs. (What’s the shot?)(The shot is the shrug! Or is the shrug the shot? I’m feeling confuseled.)


What’s she come up with ?

(Those guys speak but they’re not on-panel. This means either you forgot to put them in the panel description, or you’re just being lazy.)(I opt for the latter.)


X-ray goggles, a new breed of fish, a James
Bond watch, a dancing mini robot, a hologram projector, a dog translator, and a design
for a jetpack she didn’t have the parts for. (That’s a lot of text for a panel that also has two people who’re off-panel taking in it.)(33 words in this balloon. Not too much for the panel. The James Bond watch is lazy, though.)

Beat. (Lazy.)

She had the parts for everything else ?

Fred shrugs again, completely exasperated. (We haven’t see him unshrugging since the last shrug, so he’s just continuing the same shrug. That’s what it’s going to look like, anyway.)

Jesus. (I actually find this quite funny. Him just repeating Jesus. I don’t know why, but it works. This is the only thing that works so far.)(It would be funnier if he said Hey-zeus. Then again, what do I know about being funny?)

What we gonna do about it ?

(More off-panel dialogue.)

Beat. (You know.)

Intervention ?

A BOOM comes from Edgewood’s room. Smoke flows out underneath her door until she stumbles out, coughing in a plum of shit. (This is about three panels, at least. Again, making the artist do the hard work.)(I’ve had an epiphany! Now, you have to wait until we reach the end of the page before I share it!)

She’s covered in grease, soot, and a variety of cuts.


I’m going to cut a page here. These acts could comfortably fit a page. So, page two and I have no idea where the story is going. That’s if I can get to it through this script – which is becoming increasingly difficult.

Aw… Didn’t have to wait too long before I shared it.

Basically, this isn’t a comic book script, this is a comic script! (Or, at least it’s trying to be funny. I don’t think it’s reached there yet. Maybe Liam is more easily amused than myself? Anything is possible.)

Okay, so we’re calling this P2. Again, Liam stopped in a good place.

The only thing that’s different with this page is the dialogue. There’s sentence case capitalization going on, so that makes the first page stand out even more as being wrong—or at the very least, inconsistent. I’m going for wrong, personally.

Other than that, it’s the same things: moving panels, characters talking off-panel, and a lack of any real format. Nothing new here.

I might have to tell a story if this keeps up.

Fred smacks Vaas.

Would you knock it off ?

FRED (to Edgewood) (How is that going to translate to the page? It’s going to look like he’s saying it to Vaas as he smacks him.)
You okay dude ? (Missing comma.)(GAHHH! Whatever program you’re using to write this travesty in, stop it. That extra space between the last word and the question mark? Killing me!!! And it’s going to cause an extra step of frustration with your letterer, because they’re going to have to do a search and replace for that space and question mark for just the question mark. It’s just one more thing they’ll have to do. Sure, it’s small, but the small things add up. Ask anyone who’s had to do any kind of quality control or been in the military. Little things add up very quickly.)

Yup ! Workin (Missing apostrophe.) on a mini nuclear reactor
and it Well, it’s bein (Another missing apostrophe. That or your ‘g’ key is broken.) an asshole.

She strides swiftly to the kitchen, grabs a bottle of water, drains it and finally notices everyone staring at her. (This is the mother of moving panels.)

What ?

You, uhh, wanna take a break and go out get
some pizza ? We’re about to go to Dirty Dave’s.

Nah, I’m too busy.

C’mon man, fresh air, greasy pizza, shitty beer

Do you want this place to still be here when you
get back ?

Yes ?

Then you should reeeeally let me get back to work.

(This series of actions don’t even match up to the dialogue.)(See, Liam, now you’re asking for too much. Next, you’re going to ask for this to be interesting, and we all know that people are now only reading to see just how much we’re losing our minds.)


They don’t know what to do, or think of that, (That isn’t even drawable. Not one bit. At least the other stuff had vague suggestions of what could be drawn.) so she just walks past them and back into the warzone that is her room.


Fred makes a leap toward Vaas to pummel him but we’re cut away to— (This is screenwriting. You’re screenwriting now.)(The Force [of will] is strong in this one… I would have stopped already. There are things to say, but it’ll be said at the very end. No, they aren’t going to be nice things, either.)


The place is kinda scummy, just like the name. Half the restaurant is a 21+ bar area with a bunch of assholes millin (Milling.) around and the other half’s got a few arcade games and a group of little league baseball players havin (Having. Use the ‘g’ key. You can get away with dialect in dialogue, but not in your descriptions proper.) (Actually, you can, but you’ll come off as a lazy asshole. Too late!) the time of their life.

Vaas, Fred and Johnny sit in the bar area sitting around a table, pizza nearly gone and assorted empty/full beer glasses scattered. (Why would there be assorted full beer glasses scattered? Did they take a sip, not like it, and order others? Did the waiter/waitress not come and clean things up?)

Vaas has got some tissues stuck up his nose now and he’s pouting something rotten.

They sit uncomfortably.

(This a drawable panel. Well done.)(Except for sitting uncomfortably. I don’t know what that looks like.)


Finally— (I don’t know what this is.)(It’s a beat! You can rap to it! Beat street/the king of the beat/see you rocking that beat from across the street/and beat street is a lesson to/because-a you can’t let the street beat you! Sorry. Child of the 80s.)

So, my parents asked me over for dinner

Don’t change the subject.

Well, fuck man ! What else are we supposed
to say !? We’ve discussed our options for
the better part of a goddamn hour.

But we still haven’t actually figured out what
to d—

Exactly ! If we haven’t yet, we’re not going to.
So I say we just wing it.

What does that even mean ?? We’re just gonna
hock her up over my shoulder and take her
to a bar ?


That’s actually a pretty good idea.

As far as I can tell, there’s two panels on this page. That means your dialogue will probably fit. It also means that this is wasted page as nothing happens. At all. This is your characters just talking about what they’re going to do instead of doing what they’re actually going to do.

P3, and really, nothing happens.

As I look to the bar on the right, I see I’m nearing the end. This makes me happy.

The last time I went to SDCC, I had a pretty good time. Instead of going to the breaking in panels, I sought out some editing panels instead. Sat in on some art panels, and some voice-acting panels, and some writing panels, too.

I saw quite a few artists walking around with their portfolios. Most of what I saw were creators who weren’t ready for prime time, and were whining about it. I inked this myself with a ballpoint pen. Last year, they said they wanted a distinctive look. This is distinctive, right? (Yes, someone really said that to me.) These guys don’t know what the hell they want. They’re just up there blowing smoke up our asses.

It was a terrible, terrible sight to see.

I’m no artist, but I can tell when an artist isn’t working from a script. (And so can you. The secret is really easy: their images don’t tell a story, or there are huge gaps from panel to panel.) These people have some fire in their belly, but they hadn’t yet learned to put their talents to their best use. And I hurt for them, because you can see the frustration and the disappointment on their faces. If Liefeld can get a job, why can’t I? (Yes, someone said that to me, too.)

This gave me a newfound respect for artists who break in, and for those with the fortitude to continue to try. Because it’s tough. It takes a lot of time and energy to draw up someone else’s words. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to.

And then to be subjected to something that’s as big a waste of time as this script is…

Come on, Liam! Stop my pain! Put us all out of our misery!


Punk music through headphones (I just… This is not comic writing.) as Edgewood tinkers with a small metal box. The room is dark save for light coming from a headlamp she’s wearing.

The door opens and Fred walks in, flicking on the light switch. The room’s unbelievably messy. (This is about four panels.)

Yo ! No ! Light off ! (Spaces between the text and your ending punctuation… Why?)

Fred ignores her, picks her up and walks her out of the room, headphones and headlamp getting tugged off in the process. She’s barely out the door though when she WEDGIES him and flips out of his grasp and back into her room. (Gah! I don’t know how many actions this is! Help.) (4. At least. This is a page already.)

He fixes his wedgie, stares her down. Johnny and Vaas (no more tissues in his nose) come up on either side of him as backup. (Come up? From where? I… No… I don’t…)(They’re magically delicious!)

You’re comin (Is the ‘g’ key on your keyboard actually broken?) out whether you like it or
not. So. Y’know.

Come out with your hands up and all that.


Fuck all y’all, I got shit to do.

Fred sighs, moves in on the room, the others following.

Edgewood slowly backs further into her room, weighing her options. (How is weighing her options drawn? How?)

Fred makes a GRAB for her, she DUCKS (Why are you capitalizing actions now?) out of it and—

PEACE OUT SHITSTICKS (No punctuation, but fair enough. I’m letting you get away with things now. I’m that lost in this mire of a script.)

She sets off a SMOKEBOMB. (Where? How? Why?) Nothing can be seen.






The smoke clears slightly and we see Vaas on the floor with a bloody nose, Johnny sitting on her bed missing his prosthetic, and Fred standing in the middle empty handed. Edgewood is gone and the window is open.

At least she’s out of the room


I can’t go on. I’m sorry. I can’t. There are so many things wrong with this script. It’s difficult for me to pick one aspect and articulate it with all the others screaming inside my head. Yes, this script made me hear screaming inside my own head. And I’m not being hyperbolic. This whole thing displays your lack of understanding for the medium. It’s a garbled mess of prose and screenwriting, masquerading as a Marvel Method style script. One of those is at least drawable. This is… I don’t know what this is. I can’t even begin to analyze and comment on the story as the script is preventing me from approaching it. The artist going to be basically writing this for you, making sense of your thin, sometime non-existant, descriptions and mess of actions. You might want to make them co-writer. Or just let them write the whole thing.

Scrap this. Learn how to write for comics. Write a full script. Resubmit.

I need a break.

So, since Liam has stopped, I can, too! Let’s run ‘er down!

Format: Negative F minus, to the square root of infinity. Minus absolute zero. Kelvin.

Here’s the thing, folks: Your format can literally be anything you want it to be, as long as the artist can get what they need from it. Hell, one of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman scripts was was literally a letter to his artist.

What the script cannot do, however, is get in the way of being understood. That’s exactly what this piece did. It got in its own way.

Here’s what I believe. You’ll have a damned hard time changing my mind, but this is what I believe: Andrew had a screenplay already written, but wanted to try his hand at comic scripting. After doing just a little bit of research, he didn’t want to put in the work to do a proper conversion. Then he bought the book that just dropped from one of the biggest comic writers we currently have, and this book reinforced his brand of laziness. He then did his thing and tried to get the okay from me that he was on the right track.

This isn’t just lazy and wrong. It’s offensive to me. I’m offended.

Plot-first is one thing, screenplay is another. This marriage is an abomination. It was just a bad idea from the start. No headings, even though you broke each action down into its own space (what would have been the panel descriptions), and then clumping the dialogue together at the end of the panel, just as you would in a regular script, tells me you could have written this in something closer to a more accepted format, but were too lazy to do so. Not having any page breaks at all on top of that is just icing on the cake.

I feel like I was slapped in the face. I don’t like it.

If you feel like you’ve been slapped in the face after I finish with this, good. Then you’ll have an inkling about how I feel.

Oh, I’m not done yet.

Panel Descriptions: There were few that could actually be drawn. Most were moving panels. It wouldn’t even be terrible if this were actually a prose story, but it isn’t. You broke it down into panels, and then proceeded to fuck that up, too. Moving panels, or panels that just simply couldn’t be drawn because they were describing something that wasn’t an action.

I remember watching an episode of Batman (Adam West). The Joker was in a painting competition, and basically had painted nothing. He said he had painted a cow eating grass, but the grass was now all gone, and since there was no more grass, the cow left. It was a blank canvas, and he was hailed as a genius for it.

Some of your panel descriptions are that canvas that the Joker painted .

If you’re going to go through the trouble of separating the actions into panels, then make sure the actions are singular in nature (no crossing the room, opening the fridge, getting a coke, going to the couch…) and are a still image. Describe the still image.

Pacing: Nothing happens. Four pages, and even though you think something happens, nothing really happens. At no point in time do we get any sense of why we’re reading this. That’s what pacing helps you to do. It moves the story. There’s no story here.

Add something. Add stakes that are easily understood by the reader. Let them know you’re going somewhere with it.

Dialogue: I don’t know if it’s you or the program you used, but the space between the last word and the dialogue? That has to go.

The dialogue also has to move the plot along as well as reveal character. There was some character building going on, but none of plot-building. What is this story about? Dunno, but I shouldd have gotten some inkling before Liam called it quits.

Content: As a reader, there’s nothing here to read. You don’t have to worry about this going back on the shelf—no self-respecting retailer would buy this in order to try to sell to someone else. We’re safe from encountering this in the wild.

Editorially, I’d tell you to go study. Study the craft of writing comics, because it’s quite obvious to me that you haven’t. Learn a real format, not this…thing…you created, and then understand why things are done the way they are. Then you need to learn how to tell a story within that format. (The hell of it is that even as a screenplay, this is still crappy. You’ve taken up about five minutes worth of time, and not one blessed interesting thing happens.) If you had come to me with this crap for private editing, I’d tell you to go back, rewrite it into something that can actually be useful to someone, and then we can talk.

As an editor and as a creator, I’ve put too much time and effort into learning, honing, and growing my skill as a writer to let this pass without saying anything. This? This was a waste of time for both Liam and myself, and a waste of effort by you. And you knew that going in.

You owe everyone who’s read this an apology, you owe Liam a resubmitted script after you’ve learned how to actually write one, and you owe me…nothing. I don’t want a single thing.

And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!

Like what you see? Sam, Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email Sam here and Liam here. My info is below.

Click here to make comments in the forum!

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Category: Columns, The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.